Archive | February, 2011

A taste for tofu

13 Feb

Though tofu is much less maligned than it was when I first developed an interest in diversifying my protein sources over ten years ago, I still meet people with a real hate-on for my beloved bean curd. The thing is, tofu doesn’t have much flavour at all; it’s more about giving tofu a taste you enjoy than it is about developing a taste for tofu. Tofu haters don’t last long in the face of the delicious dish I’m about to introduce you to.

If you’re shaking your head in dismay and thinking “the texture is the problem”, rest assured: fresh tofu is available in a variety of textures. The most common are soft/silken tofu, which is usually sold in boxes, and firm/cotton tofu, which is usually sold vaccuum-packed (in larger grocery stores) or stored in buckets of water (in smaller/specialty stores). The latter can more easily be eaten with chopsticks and doesn’t jiggle like the former.

Vacuum-packed, cotton-style tofu

Vacuum-packed, cotton-style tofu

It’s the kind of tofu involved in this recipe, and I encourage you to try it out and see what you think. It just may change your mind about tofu forever (you’re welcome).

Faced with this?

Cubed tofu

Cubed tofu

Gather the following 4 ingredients for a marinade…

Marinade ingredients

Marinade ingredients (aka Why I'm a Librarian and Not a Food Stylist)

and transform it into this (see recipe below):

Cooked tofu

Ginger-garlic tofu

The best thing about this tofu dish is its versatility. You can add it to spinach salad for some extra flavour and protein. You can toss it in a stir fry. You can pile on some corn kernels…

Tofu with corn kernels

and a generous helping of mashed potatoes…

Tofu, corn, mashed potatoes

then stick the baking dish back in the oven on broil for a few minutes and have a delicious non-shepherd’s pie.

Non-shepherd's pie

Non-shepherd's pie

Serve with salad for a complete meal!

Eat your greens at every meal

Complete meal

That’s cranberry juice, btw.

You can also serve this tofu straight-up in lieu of the meat in a meat-and-potatoes dinner (move over, tofurkey). ‘Cause eating well is all about options. Without further ado…

Ginger-Garlic Tofu

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 block firm/cotton tofu, cubed

Method:
1) Mix all ingredients except tofu in a baking dish
2) Add the cubed tofu to the marinade and mix to coat evenly
3) Let sit for 15 minutes
4) Cook on 350F-400F for 10-15 minutes, until tofu is browned

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Sometimes, in the depths of (a Canadian) winter

12 Feb

Sometimes, in the depths of winter, you get tired and feel lethargic. Food tastes a little off, like it has frostbite. Sometimes, food isn’t the only one with frostbite.

Sometimes, you can’t find fresh fruit anymore that doesn’t come from the Southern hemisphere (damn them!), and you miss the bustle of the local market.

Sometimes, you feel like hibernating, like a bear, in a cave somewhere. Before crawling in, you want to gain 5 pounds a week. You plan to gain that weight expressly through potatoes and bread.

Sometimes, you lose the will to jog, which means you lose the endorphin rush, which means you eat chocolate, and you don’t even like chocolate. What’s up with that?

Sometimes, you wonder why your father and grandfather emigrated from fairer isles to this godforsaken land. No, seriously.

Sometimes, you feel utterly uninspired: you can’t think of a single meal you want to cook, a single thing you want to do when you get home from work, or a single blog post topic. Yo can’t be roused to take photographs, even, unless they are on your phone.

In cases such as this, here is a prescription:

  1. In the morning, take two cups of fortifying coffee, not one.
  2. In the evening, rely on canned soups. In every meal. Even if it means making Easy chicken a la king, an entirely wonderful recipe (use peas instead of pepper, and multi-grain bread instead of rice or pastry) instead of the real thing.
  3. Drench things in warming red wine, even if said thing is out-of-season, overpriced asparagus. Because sometimes you just need exorbitantly-priced vegetables steeped in red wine, garlic, and butter in the depths of a Canadian winter.
  4. Rinse. Repeat. Things will get better.

Lineup at the lunch counter

9 Feb

I was in Toronto last week for the OLA super conference and it totally lived up to the “super”.  I made a detour one day at lunch to shop for some presents and found myself close to Dundas and Yonge. I haven’t lived in Toronto for over a decade but I remembered that there used to be a Jamaican restaurant near Ryerson. I know the block I used to know has been torn down. It’s a very different intersection these days. I figured, however, that a new restaurant might have popped up to take its place. I could have used the power of my iPhone to check, but I decided to do what I love doing in cities – I  started walking. I came across a  Jamaican restaurant called Ritz on Yonge St. It’s around the corner from Massey Hall. I had never heard of it, don’t know anyone who ever ate there, so there was only one thing to do. Check it out.  I went in and was met with a very long lineup. I decided to stay and eat. Here’s where I’m going with this – big line up at lunch = good. Also,  it looked clean, the food smelled great, and the line was moving. When I finally got close enough to see what was behind the counter, I had trouble deciding. I settled on some incredible jerk chicken and made sure to tell 5 more people about the place.

jerk chicken

Sabor Latino on Belanger in Montreal is  another lunch counter I found using this technique. I watched families fighting their ways in and out the front door and decided to find out what was so great. Turns out, the food. Another good find, the name of the restaurant escapes me, was a lunch counter in Hamilton, Bermuda run by a French chef. It was located in the heart of the tourist area, but all the people in line were from nearby offices and the line was out the door.

I am suggesting you try this technique, or let us know if you’ve found any great spots using the long lineup technique.

Christmas in February!

8 Feb

By Carrie Schmidt

There is something so sad about an abandoned blog. I check the ol’ Digestive Librarians’ Digest blog every once in a while, to see what other food lovin’ librarians are writing about…… and nothing. Over two months and no new blog posts: I don’t want this blog to die!

As a winner of a box full of goodness, I should have plenty of material to write about, right? And it’s coming… slowly… but here is the truth: blogging is hard. I’ve had a personal blog for almost five years now, and I don’t get very much traffic at all. Small audience, very little feedback; it feels like I’m rambling/screaming into the void.

It takes time to write, and even more time to write well, and then with the uploading and adjusting of photographs… I’d rather be cooking, or eating, or, after a day of librarianing, I’d much rather just watch TV and not have to use my brain for a while.

But I like the idea of blogs, I like the idea of this blog in particular, and I will not let the sucker die.

Behold, more than a month after the fact – an obligatory Christmas meal post!

My spouse person and I have been very lucky for quite a few years: we have been too poor and too far away to go to either set of parents for Christmas. Mine live in Edmonton, Alberta; his live on Salt Spring Island, B.C. We lived in Montreal for a good five years, and that was five years of developing new traditions – or piggybacking onto friends’ traditions. We became obligatory family friends at Christmas dinners, which has it’s own set of challenges. If I had my druthers, I would be very quiet on Christmas Day, spending it in the company of chocolate, inebriants, and a pile of DVDs, speaking to no one, and pretending that no one else existed.

But I don’t have my druthers, I have family members who think tradition is really important, and it’s just a day, right? Christmas = Compromise.

Here is how I spent my Christmas 2010.

It started with a ferry ride; the people pictured here are family members and I believe the expressions captured here say everything there is to say about obligatory family traditions:

ferry ride

Of course, all this Christmas fuss started because of that guy, so sure, let’s give him thanks:

"thank you jesus" mug

For breakfast there was bubble bread and grapefruit and other things:

bubble bread

I did not participate in any of the food making. But my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law did – maybe my father-in-law, too? But definitely the ladies. Talented ladies. Susan made this deliciously tart and tangy cold cranberry soup that started off the Weston Christmas Dinner 2010 Extravaganza:

cold cranberry soup

And of course there were vegetables:

vegetables

More cranberry goodness:

cranberries

Somehow, everything mashed together on a plate doesn’t look as appealing as when each dish is separated – but it was still delicious:

A massive turkey:

turkey

And two desserts. A trifle – which was 100% totally delicious:

trifle

I didn’t have any of this flaming Christmas pudding.

flamin' pudding

This particular pudding was mildly controversial. You see, there was a newly pregnant lady in the midst of all this Christmas hoopla (not me), and there was massive discussion surrounding the brandy that goes into the pudding. I was very grateful that I was at work and not helping with food prep for Christmas, because apparently there was quite the emotional dither-dather over the amount of brandy in the pudding. (The pregnant lady was also not around when the pudding was being made.)

I think it would have been a much less pleasant Christmas had I been there for the food prep because

  1. A tablespoon or two of brandy in a Christmas pudding is NOT going to cause the child to suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. And I would have made a big stink about being overly cautious. My eye rolls would have ruined Christmas!
  2. I knew the pregnant lady wouldn’t be having any of the Christmas pudding anyway … she doesn’t even like it.

In fact, there are quite a few traditional dishes that various family members don’t actually like, but there seems to be a lack of communication amongst the family members regarding said dishes. Lots of “if I say I don’t like this, feelings will be hurt” which is maddening, but oh-so-true.

Next year, it’s my mom’s turn to stress out about making a bunch of dishes that are only made once a year; the plan is to head to Edmonton. I don’t think that preparing Christmas dinner is worth the stress that it seems to bring to so many people – but then I’ve also heard that Christmas dinner is a really wonderful experience for so many. Of course, I also used to believe that Santa was real, so…… maybe the joyful Christmas dinner is also a myth?

Check out Carrie’s bio on the Contributors page.